Changed by the Vision
Ephesians 4:17-5:21 August 14, 2005
God’s vision for us (chosen/predestined to be part of his kingdom – to the praise of his glory)
How to keep it alive (prayer)
How to live it (grace/not works)
United in it (family)
Committed to it (mystery/love)
Consumed by it (prisoner/mature/work/‘one’)
*Changed by it (obey)
So, if we are God’s prisoner (like Paul), taken captive by his love, resurrected unto increasing maturity to do good works in the kingdom of God through the spiritual gifts bestowed on us by his abundant grace, our lives must look and act differently than they used to. (Being a prisoner is usually intended to be remedial.)
This is the point Ephesians brings us to this morning in 4:17-5:20 as we continue on with the theme of God’s vision for us, which of course must then become our vision for us if we are in him.
We must claim that for which we have been claimed, we must work toward that for which he labored, we must become that for which he came.
As Paul ends our last section in v16 and begins today’s section in v17 [read], we see that we must work toward change.
What good is the vision of God for us if it does not involve change? Indeed, that is what vision is all about – change toward that which may seem far off because we need change so much, but is achievable by his grace.
Grace is an important factor here because that is how God steps in to cover that which we, in our fallenness, just can’t seem to muster the faith to accomplish. But we must not forget that it is also grace that erases our sin and gives us freedom to change if we will. God works in us to do what we cannot – if we let him.
Bottom line --- God wants change whether we do it with his help (reaping reward for increasing faith), or whether he has to do it for us (losing potential reward for lacking faith).
To quote the text from the message I gave to bring in this New Year (Hope in a New Year), Jesus says in the end of the Bible ---
“He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."” (Re 21:5 NivUS)
God has set out from the beginning to remake his creation that has fallen into disrepair through the sin of man and his myriad debilitations.
When the flood came in Noah’s time, it didn’t just take out sinful humanity – it took out all things of breathing flesh that he did not ‘shut in’ under the cover of his ark (of the covenant) floating upon the sea of his grace.
Since man is the cause of world collapse, man is his focus, being made in his image. When man is changed, the world will change – indeed all creation.
By closer extension, when we are changed, his church will change. God has set his sights, his vision, upon changing sinful man.
So, if the vision is yours of bringing glory to God by being part of the kingdom of Christ, you must become changed – different from the way you were before claiming the benefits of his kingdom for yourself.
It is like being hired for a new job. You get your daily pay (provision), health insurance and retirement. “But you mean I actually have to learn, work and produce something on the job?”
Well, yes --- can we claim the benefits of employment without doing the work? Can we rightfully claim the benefits of God’s kingdom and not care about producing spiritual fruit?
Unless we keep changing into something more like his image, we cannot produce much spiritual fruit. Again --- we cannot fulfill his vision for us unless we continue to come into it.
What are the ways we must be changed by embracing God’s vision for us?
I. We must think differently (vv 4:17-19)
II. We must act differently (vv. 4:20-24)
III. We must talk differently (vv. 4:25-28)
[comment on stealing vision]
IV. We must become more conscious of God (vv. 4:29-32)
“4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” (Jas 4:4-5 NivUS)
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2Co 11:2 NivUS)
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” (Ex 20:5 NivUS)
V. We must become more like God (vv. 5:1-2)
VI. We must become holy (vv. 5:3-7)
[inherit kingdom of God – our part in the vision]
1. Contrast dark/light (vv. 8-14a)
2. Contrast sleep/wake (v. 14b)
3. Contrast foolish/wise (vv. 15-17a)
VII. We must understand God’s will (vision) for us (vv. 17b-21)
--- as part of the kingdom of God ---
A. We must be spiritual in mind (reverence toward the Holy Spirit)
B. We must be spiritual in relationship (reverence toward others)
[speak to each other as if it is worship]
“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1Pe 4:11 NivUS)
C. We must be spiritual in worship (reverence toward God)
D. We must submit all things to Christ (reverence toward Jesus)
Do you know when the KOG got its start? It was in Gen. 4:25-26 when the line of Seth separated from the line of Cain. Only the line of a costly “blood” religion – a line changed by Christ – is worthy to be called the KOG. The line of Seth led to Noah – a preacher of righteousness (2Pet. 2:5). The line of Cain dies out in Scripture after Gen. 4:19-24 – never to be heard from again.
“6 ¶ Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."” (Ge 4:6-7 NivUS)
Then Cain killed Abel. Cain refused change. And God changed the world.
“5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 ¶ The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth— men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air— for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 ¶ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Ge 6:5-8 NivUS)
By the time of the flood, Noah was all that was left in man of the knowledge of God. The construction of the ark gave stark testimony to his preaching for 120 years.
How about the times we are in? Will things get better or worse before the end? Don’t be confused by that question and how things seem to be unfolding. It may well do both. God will complete his kingdom before the rapture. But you can be sure he will glorify himself in what he does. If we are not changed (different enough from the world for the world to take notice) then God gets no glory when he takes us home. I am coming to believe that the time of the end will show the world getting worse while the true people of God get better (polarization - more holy vs. more evil). It is the difference that will reveal his glory. Are you ready for change? Are you ready for revival?
The latest Barna Report shows that only 35% of Americans believe in moral absolutes but only 5% have a biblical worldview. This is a sad commentary on the nation that prides itself on saving the world from evil.
I believe the revived polarization of the people of God is what is meant by this verse:
“11 ¶ Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2Pe 3:11-13 NivUS)
What are the ways we must be changed by embracing God’s vision for us?
We must think differently
We must act differently
We must talk differently
We must be more conscious of God
We must become more like God
We must become holy
We must understand God’s will (vision) for us
We must be spiritual in mind (reverence toward the Holy Spirit)
We must be spiritual in relationship (reverence toward others)
We must be spiritual in worship (reverence toward God)
We must submit all things to Christ (reverence toward Jesus)
God’s vision for us is restoration, and that involves change. Are you ready?
We must begin change:
“And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3 NivUS)
He will complete whatever change in us we cannot:
“51 ¶ Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1Co 15:51-52 NivUS)
Indeed, He will change all creation:
“10 He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."” (Heb 1:10-12 NivUS)
And it will be glorious:
“1 ¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Re 21:1-2 NivUS)
Are you being ‘changed by the vision’?